BMS puts $300M toward diversity efforts, including clinical trial diversity

BMS puts $300M toward diversity efforts, including clinical trial diversity

A common complaint for many years has been that clinical trials are insufficiently diverse, more reflecting a population that is largely white and affluent. But one of the largest drug companies in the country is donating toward an effort to change that.
New York-based Bristol-Myers Squibb said Wednesday that it and its philanthropic arm, the BMS Foundation would donate $300 million as part of an effort to expand diversity and inclusion, in the company’s workforce as well as in clinical trials. The company noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed how severe social and health disparities are in the U.S., which thereby increase the risk of infection and poorer outcomes among Black and Latino communities.
“Now more than ever, we recognize the urgent need to do more to address serious gaps in care among the underserved in communities around the world,” BMS CEO Giovanni Caforio said in a statement. “This commitment reflects our belief that investments toward achieving health equity and increasing diversity and inclusion are opportunities to advance our vision of transforming patients’ lives through science.”
As part of its effort, the company said the BMS Foundation would train and develop 250 new racially and ethnically diverse clinical trial investigators, with an aim toward extending the reach of its clinical trials into underserved patient communities in rural and urban areas.
“Clinical trial diversity needs acceleration,” said BMS’ chief medical officer, Samit Hirawat, in a statement. “We see tremendous opportunity for longer-term, sustainable impact by supporting ethnically diverse physician scientists to engage in clinical research while also establishing clinical research sites in diverse communities.”
Experts have said that the problem with a lack of diversity in clinical trials is that it results in data that may not pick up subtle differences between different communities that can result in significantly different outcomes, both in terms of drugs’ efficacy and their safety.
That has become especially acute in Covid-19, which has disproportionately affected Black and Latino communities. Nevertheless, in a commentary earlier this week published in The New England Journal of Medicine, several physicians and pharmacists noted that two Phase III studies of Gilead Sciences’ Covid-19 antiviral drug, remdesivir, enrolled Black and Latino patients at rates disproportionate to the incidence of severe and fatal disease in those communities.
Photo: appledesign, Getty Images

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